The Pull List 28/09/16

comic, First Impressions

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Star Trek Waypoint 1 (IDW Comics)

Even as a kid I was shrewd about my money and quickly learnt that a lot of my passions and obsessions had some truly awful and lazy spin offs, Star Trek being one of the worst offending money grabbing staples of my youth, and one I happily ignored for a decade or two. I’m a fan, but money will always trump slavish devotion to any ‘franchise’, even now. Except somewhere in between then and now licensed properties quietly became, well, kinda awesome. IDW‘s unstoppable Doctor Who or Boom’s magic touch on the seemingly inexhaustible Adventure Time comics,  get great ideas and writers and the readers will follow. Even so I’ve been sceptical of my childhood repeat offender until now.

Waypoint is a brand new series from IDW offering up anthology stories from all across the breadth and time of the thankfully lens flare free Prime Universe for all us bitter old school nerds. This time around with two stories,  a classic original series story by Sandra Lanz and one that finally got me buying Star Trek comics again, “Puzzles”. Written by Donny Cates and Mack Chater set sometime after the Next Generation, with a mysterious ship appearing, with Data and Geordie sent out to investigate. Not giving too much away, it gives a heady sci-fi spin on Data and Geordie’s unusual but lasting friendship and the preview pages made me smile with where Cates and Chater have taken it and how much they understand the unusual pairing.

Jonesy Vol 1 (Boom Comics)

Collecting all six issues of the colourful, charming and captivating miniseries from writer Sam Humpries and artist Caitlin Rose Boyle. Self described “cool dork” Jonesy,  introduces readers to her high school life, spending her time making zines and most importantly, using her super secret power to make people fall in love. A modern day Cupid with converse, plaid and attitude.

Like Allison or Tynion, it’s hard to believe this isn’t written by teenagers. Told from our anarchic math makers point of view the dialogue is snappy and genuine, coupling perfectly with  the delightfully brash and vivid cartoon style of Boyle, it would appeal to fans of slice of life fantasy-realism like Scott Pilgrim or Giant Days.

The Pull List 21/09/16

comic, Comic spotlight, First Impressions

The Backstagers 1 (Boom Studios)

A little bit of a cheat this one given it came out weeks ago, but this second printing is perfect for certain people who despite regularly singing the praises of Boom  for the likes of Giant Days and The Spire, Still somehow manages to miss out on delightful new titles like The Backstagers. Written and created by current Detective Comics scribe James Tynion IV and artist Ryan Sigh,  it takes the Lumberjanes template of adorable art with an everyday setting with magical elements.This time the magic of the stage that turns out to be very real for the private school theatre crew of the title.

With two openly queer creators at the helm, Backstagers boasts a strikingly diverse queer cast it’s the kind of book I champion, and it’s refreshing already to know it’ll explore the kind of identities and personalities beyond the tired and tested. If ever there was a safe bet, then The Backstagers would be it, already released to rave reviews and praise, it looks to be every bit as heartwarming and welcoming as it’s camp based cousin.

Rumble 14 (Image Comics)

At the risk of repeating myself, this months issue of Rumble is another regular returnee onto my weekly  picks, and deservedly so. Aided by the enthusiastic but idiotic Del, Rathraq must face off against his own earthly remains and an impossible decision. With a unique and engrossing mythology, Arcudi and Harren continue to develop their mystical brawl-em-up’s cast of complex and conflicted characters. The question of “what colour darkness” is increasingly “shades of grey” to Rathraq as he faces the consequences of his life long vendetta. Action and intense visuals you can only find on the printed page, Rumble is constantly at the forefront of what makes comics so exciting.

 

 

“Technology has become our latest aspirational model”: An interview with Arcadia writer Alex Paknadel

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Increasingly it can sometimes feel that as a species, we’ve already given ourselves to the machine. Networked, Glued to screen and ‘black mirrors’ everywhere it seems that more and more of our fiction examines the dark side of such progress and our tumultuous absorption with technology. Exploring these themes as it speeds towards the conclusion of it’s gripping first story arc, Arcadia from writer Alex Paknadel and Eric Scott Pfeiffer presents a vision of a world whose people have literally given themselves over to the machine.

After an as yet, unspecified disease decimates the human  population, the only way to ‘save’ the world’s population is by copying them into the vast digital space of Arcadia. A new cyber playground for the world’s digitally resurrected people. The processing power hungry behemoth is guarded and maintained out of duty and sorrow by the few remaining flesh and bone residents of the real world, already dismissively dubbed “the meat” by the pixilated population of Arcadia. Four issues in and the creative team has already given us a fascinating glimpse into the world of Arcadia, that mirrors our own world in it’s struggle to redefine itself and the nature of humanity in the wake of such technological changes. In the desperate scrabble for survival we have a small group of ragged real world humans maintaining the Arcadia servers in the face of disease and dwindling resources and an uploaded, shell shocked  digital populace still clinging onto the old ways and outdated concepts. In the first issue a character sits in traffic. An endless, boundless digital landscape and a traffic jam. It’s the smallest and most ridiculous example presented as we see a new world still shackled by pettiness and human greed. It’s a decidedly modern spin on the cyberpunk, virtual reality concepts written for a readership ever more enthralled and at ease with technology. Even so it manages to ask some deep questions and be deeply unflinching and unnerving in it’s presentation of human nature and its relationship with the devices it produces.

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Marfedblog: So, with Arcadia what was happening in your own life or in the world around you that inspired you to write the series?

Alex Paknadel: The inspiration for the series was pretty environmental I suppose. The HBO show ‘Silicon Valley‘ critiques this far more astutely than I ever could, but a while ago it occurred to me that tech – and by extension the narrow late capitalist definition of progress – has taken the place of religion in our lives. We give more and more of ourselves to the machine, all in the pursuit of limit performance. I wanted to see what would happen if we gave ourselves to the machine entirely, you know? What would that look like?

MB: What are you feelings on our current level of interaction with technology? Why do you think as a species it’s a subject we keep exploring, coming back to and fretting over?

AP: I forget where I read this, but this anthropologist asserted somewhere that the history of technology has mainly been the history of mimicry. Humans see traits we covet in the animal and vegetable kingdoms, so we use technology to mimic those traits. Bears were warmer than we were back in the ice age, so we killed them for their skins so we could be like them, right? Murder and imitation were the same thing, Then we wanted to be like birds so we invented flying machines to join them in the sky. The problem now is that technology has become our latest aspirational model. We want to work and play like machines because they’re so much slicker than we are. Did you know that we sleep approximately two hours less than our grandparents every single night now? We skip lunch breaks, we do crazy overtime, we turn up to work sick. Why? So we can be more like machines that will replace us anyway. Anything becomes dangerous once it leaves its intended function behind. I think we realize that on some level, so tech becomes an object of terror.

MB: Wealth inequality, or Arcadia’s version of it, plays a big part in the series so far, and has been in the spotlight in the news more prominently in the last few years. Is this something you feel strongly about?

AP: I do, yeah. I grew up in a poor neighborhood in London in the eighties, so I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder about it I’m afraid. It’s certainly true that you have to meet the world halfway if you want to achieve anything, but it’s also true that the game is rigged to a disgusting extent. With Arcadia, I wanted to make it very clear that even in a utopia we’d find a way to perpetuate our inhumanity to each other. I couldn’t do it through resources in the traditional sense, so I went with faces. The poor literally have more generic faces than the rich. The dirt poor have no face at all. Individuality is a luxury, kids!

MB: With the rise of the internet, even with the positives do you feel that like Arcadia we are already living in our little simulated worlds?

AP: That’s exactly the point I’m trying to make, yes. The algorithms on social media and search platforms are so sophisticated and hyper-personalized now, they’re essentially mirrors. Reality is curated by these algorithms to the extent that you’re only presented with individuals and material that fall pretty conclusively within your comfort zone. Where’s the radical encounter? Where’s the productive disagreement? Why is it so vital that we not be exposed to anything that might challenge our existing worldview? How ironic that the greatest information resource ever devised has done a terrific job of turning some of us into petulant super toddlers.

MB: It seems to be hinted at that Arcadia wasn’t intended to be used for saving the human race, is there a deliberate reflection of the internet as it is now, with it being intended for something else and now being somewhat controlled by larger parties such as governments and corporations, instead of being free and open source?

AP: I was certainly thinking in terms of tools changing their nature in line with the intentions of the wielder, sure. A camera is a perfectly neutral thing in the dark of a closet, but in the hands of a government or a corporation it becomes a weapon. I’ve said this elsewhere, but what I’m really bellyaching about here is blind faith in cyber-utopianism if that makes sense. I remember a banker friend told me in about 2005 that there would never be another financial crash because trading desks were automated! Technology was the tool, but it was never going to be a bulwark against human greed and cowardice. To put it into a single sentence, technology will never be able to protect us from our own nature. That’s the one assertion that underpins Arcadia in its entirety.

Review: Kate Leth and Matt Cummings’ Power Up for new Boom! Box series

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If the recent Sailor Moon Crystal series or the renewed interest in Power Rangers via comics proves anything it’s that there are no tropes, series or sub genres too old or too obscure that don’t deserve another go around with a fresh set of eyes or a talented creative team. Adding to their already diverse line-up, Boom! studios have added Power Up from writer Kate Leth and Artist Matt Cummings. Already issue one feels stylistically like the opening episode of your new favourite cartoon or anime series and has a lot in common with the likes of Adventure Time, Steven Universe and Bee and Puppycat. It’s the reinvention of the magical girl genre for the hip Cartoon Network crowd. PowerUp_001_A_Main This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the duo’s previous connections to these series, with both having written and drawn for a number of shows’ comic book counterparts. This however, is the first creator owned book for both of them and it’s feels so well realised and fully formed from the first page as if it’s come from it’s own Cartoon Network show. On the surface the premise for Power Up is simple, the usual mystic prophecy that foretells of our chosen warriors that will battle cosmic forces of evil. The twist and hook of the book is the choice of characters the powers to be have decided shall become their greatest warriors, the hedgehog owning work shirking Aime, Sandy an overworked mother of two and Kevin, washed up athlete turned construction worker. Already we are shown the characters getting through the hurdles in their everyday lives such as being late for work, juggling work and kids and the indignities of being stuffed into a cup. Oh yeah, one of the team, Silas, is a goldfish. An undeniably cute goldfish, but a goldfish none the less.Already I love the sorely needed, non conventional leads. It’s as if Kate Leth has seen the outpouring and demand for this and simply ran with it. Flawed, realistic and relatable, they’re as far from conventional superheroes as possible. PowerUp_001_PRESS-7-thumb-500x768-160781 All are presented with relatable problems, and as person who has also never, ever wanted to be forty five minutes early for work I could instantly identify with Aime’s less than commendable work ethic. The characters aren’t seen in costume in this issue, only with Kevin furtively hiding what looks to be the costume he is proudly sporting on the cover, a traditional magical girl outfit complete with pink skirt and matching high heel boots. It makes me hopeful for at least part of the story exploring a character, who at least outwardly is presented as very typically masculine, being empowered by aspects of femininity. Although not explicitly stated in any way, there is a sense in the costumes not quite matching the characters that they may not be the first team to use these powers, or perhaps not the intended recipients.

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Cummings’ artwork is both quirky and adorable with an animated style that again makes it feel like an adaptation of a cartoon. The character designs are great and feel genuinely natural yet stylised, his simplistic faces with their over exaggerated anime expressions again calls back to the comics roots in animes like Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura. His grasp of movement gives the issue some stunning action scenes as Aime and Silas grapple with their first supernatural foe in the middle of the pet shop. The softer lines used in the setting and backgrounds draw attention to the characters and the use of a limited colour palette throughout is also excellent and gives the settings a soft, dreamy feel. As a relative newcomer this is his first longer comic project, with hopefully many more to follow. Though the first issue feels a little slight, and is slow to establish anything but a few aspects of it’s story, it’s enough to make you stick with it for the second issue. The draw being to see how these people from vastly different backgrounds and with little in common, eventually come together as a team. As with the aforementioned comparison to Steven Universe, one of the most important and inventive elements was the shows slow burn, as it took it’s time to world build and establish its mythos. An approach that Power Up will hopefully employ in it’s issues to come.

Interview: Giant Days gets giant sized: Talking with John Allison and Lissa Treiman

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The original post at bleeding cool has an exclusive preview of issue five!

Fans of Boom Studios Giant Days got a surprise treat this month when it was announced that the series would be expanded from six issues to twelve, doubling both the series length and the time readers get to spend with the unlikely trio of Susan, Esther and Daisy in their first year takling the obstacle course that is university life.

Although Allison had previously commented about writing the series as six issues, a regular British sitcom series length, it feels as if the series now has a little bit more breathing space. With issue four only just starting to explicate upon the complex personal history between Susan and Mcgraw as well as Daisy tentatively questioning her own sexuality, the extra six issues will hopefully give more time to dive into these stories.

The team behind Giant Days is long time web-comic artist John Allison and Disney storyboard artists Lissa Treiman who together bring us the exploits of the girls Giant Days. Issue five of the now expanded series hits shelves on July 15th and both creators managed to take time out between issues to talk to Bleeding Cool about the series so far.

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Marfedblog: Has it been a strange experience seeing characters who you’ve previously drawn being brought to life by another artist? Lissa, what attracted you to Giant Days and has it been strange drawing for someone else who has also drawn these characters in the past?

John Allison: It’s the opposite of a strange experience, it’s a delight. I love drawing but ultimately it’s the bottleneck on my creativity. I can manage one page a day. Maybe two, but at the end of the day my eyes won’t focus. I’m always fighting a certain stiffness in my art that comes out of starting in comic strips and a lack of training, but there’s no stiffness in Lissa’s art, she can draw anything. She puts so many fun details in the panels that I didn’t come up with. Having her as the artist on the series is like winning a prize.

Lissa Treiman: It was the twin factors of being able to collaborate with John whose work I’d been a fan of since forever and being able to work on a published comic. I’ve always wanted to break into the comic book scene professionally, so when I saw the opportunity I hurled myself at it! There was a brief adjustment period drawing the characters; keeping them in my own style, but still always wondering “… am I drawing them right?” I’ve got all three of John’s original Giant Days stories in print, and those have been within arms-length of my desk for reference as I’ve been drawing the series. But I like to think my style has been pretty simpatico with his sensibilities, so for the most part it hasn’t been that strange at all

MB: What is it about these three particular characters that drew you back to them for another series? Was it strange writing slightly tweeked versions of them for this book?

JA: The original Giant Days series was a really pleasant surprise to me. There was only ever meant to be one issue, as a kind of pilot to pitch with. I never intended to draw it full time. I pitched it to Oni with my friend Jonathan Edwards drawing it (he most recently worked on 21st Century Tank Girl, but it was far from a polished offering at that point and probably too soon. Something nagged at me for the next two years though, and eventually I did the two further stories back to back on my website. I knew there was more in the tank if I wanted to do more so I started looking for the right place to pitch it.

MB:What attracted you to Boom in particular?

JA: I’d worked with Shannon Watters doing covers for Marceline & The Scream Queens, so when Boom opened up new pitches for Boom!Box, I sent them a pitch document which, for the first time in my life, actually looked like a pitch.

MB: Lissa, did you follow John’s work before you got together on this Giant Days series and which is your favorite character to draw?

LT: I’ve been reading John’s comics for YEARS! I think I started reading Scary Go Round around the end of high school or the beginning of college, and I’ve followed it through to Bad Machinery. So yeah, I’m definitely a fan. Can’t wait to see what he’s got planned for the future!

Daisy! She’s got long noodley arms, and I’ve gotten some of my favorite expressions out of her. She’s “the innocent” one, which means her emotions are just… out there, and that lends itself to some broader acting that i can have fun with. Plus that hair. She might actually be my favorite character across the board, don’t tell the others.

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MB: How have you been finding the experience of writing for a print comic rather than a webcomic?

It’s hard! Having drawn everything I’ve written, by now I write completely visually. I often rough out the whole page as I write, doing the whole thing in pencil on lined pads. Typing out the scripts and just describing the action was completely new for me. I’m just not used to doing it, it was almost embarrassingly personal, having to describe what the characters were thinking. That probably sounds ludicrous.

MB: Lissa, How does your approach to working on comics differ from working on storyboards? What is the most obvious thing you bring from that side of things?

LT: I’ve always thought of storyboards and comics as similar-but-different cousins. Both are visual story-telling media, so an understanding of how composition choices and acting can affect the clarity and tone of a story is definitely a crossover skill-set. The biggest difference is in the format of the media, I guess.

For storyboards you’re composing frames in one uniform aspect ratio, and you generally have as many panels as you need to convey an idea, although, as in most things, less is more. In comics that aspect ratio gets totally blown up, and suddenly it’s not just best composition for a panel, its size and shape of that panel, composition of panels on the page… just a lot more to think about. You also generally have fewer panels to convey ideas with, so you’ve really got to be economical with how you use the space you have. It’s been a fun challenge, I’ve definitely learned a lot.

MB: Lissa, do you prefer working in comics or animation and storyboarding?

LT: Between comics and animation, I can’t say! They scratch different itches I think. Both have been collaborative processes for me, which I like. I like the instant gratification that comes with comics; it can be years before a film I’ve worked on hits theaters, but these comics seem to be on the shelves before I’ve even finished them!

Not to mention people actually get to see the work I do in comics, storyboarding is so behind the scenes, there’s so much artwork that no one ever sees. But I like being a part of the film making process too. It’s different! I feel like we’re thinking about things a little more dynamically because that’s what the medium does. And thinking how it’s all going to move, and sound, and all the added dimension of that. I’m one of many cogs in that machine it but it’s a cool thing to help make. I guess yeah, they both fulfill different things for me as a storyteller.

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MB: John, Did you have to make many changes to how you usually write in terms of pacing and such with it being a twenty odd page monthly story rather than the usual release schedule of your web-comic?

JA: The print comic is almost exactly the same number of pages as I write for the web-comic in a month, but I was very conscious of wanting each issue to be mostly self-contained. Character threads exist from issue to issue but I need to resolve a central point every month. I have a love-hate relationship with comic book continuity. My life’s work is to make it invisible to new readers.

MB: Issue three in particular features elements of sexism and lad culture that’s very much in the public eye at the moment, do you think it’s important to deal with these issues and still have a comic be entertaining? How do you approach subjects like this when writing?

JA: We live in such polarized times, it’s pretty shocking to me. I came of age in the mid-nineties, less enlightened times in a lot of ways but there was a sense of consensus and compromise if you worked at it. Now, the voice of the left is shrill, the voice of the right is pompous and entitled, and if you seek any kind of consensus, you’re a traitor. If I approach any issue that I can’t just joke away, I try to do it in a way that gives everyone the fairest shake I can hand out. I try not to be didactic, because God knows I change my mind about things every day.

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Review: Navigating The Giant Days Of College Life With Genuine and Unique Characters

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I wrote a little something about Giant Days issue one, I was really smitten with it and it seems like a good a time as any to start posting and making this blog worthwhile.

Click link for Full review on bleedingcool or read it below.

Review: Navigating The Giant Days Of College Life With Genuine and Unique Characters

“Nothing you can do can spoil gravy for me”

Celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, Boom studios and its youthful imprint, Boom! Box have been consistently putting out an increasingly innovative and diverse range of books from new creators such as Lumberjanes, Teendog and Help us! Great Warrior. Joining this impressive line-up of books are the first of six issues of John Allison and Lissa Treiman’s Giant Days, which spins off from Allison’s previous work on his acclaimed web comic, Bad Machinery. This time around with Disney storyboard artist Lissa Treiman taking over art duties.

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